Mar 31st 2020

What is a Streak Filter? How to Get Anamorphic Lens Flare

Streak Filters - What are they and why do we need them?

Anamorphic lens flare, AKA the “anamorphic streak,” is a form of lens flare that appears as horizontal lines rather than traditional, circular bokeh. 

Now considered a sought-after visual effect, these unique lens flare streaks first appeared due to aberrations (optical flaws) in anamorphic lenses.

Where do anamorphic streaks come from?

As I’ve heard the story, Panavision created “Anamorphic Lenses” beginning in the 1950s to film in widescreen Cinemascope format using the full film area of standard 35mm frames.

The built-in “squeeze ratio” in Anamorphic lenses compresses the image at its horizontal axis. While “unfolding” the squeezed image for viewing, distortions and reflections are stretched horizontally, resulting in a cinematic streak effect instead of typical circular “bokeh” flare.

The streaks look like this:


Far from finding it a deal killer, many filmmakers loved the way it looked.

Anamorphic lenses became “too good” for the beloved streak lens flare effect

Fast forward to the 21st Century. Motion Picture powerhouse ARRI produced ARRISCOPE lenses: Anamorphic lenses which were so good optically that they no longer had the flaws that created the anamorphic streak effect. That’s all well and good, but those who wanted to include the lens flare for artistic reasons, now needed to reproduce the streak flare effect using filters.

How to get anamorphic lens flare: Mimic the anamorphic streak with anamorphic lens filters

At his company OPTFEX, Ira Tiffen created streak filters by laminating cylindrical rod lenses between sheets of glass. Later, Ira joined Schneider Optics and his team at Schneider also began producing those filters, which are still produced today.

Streak filters mimic the anamorphic streak flare effect, causing streaks on bright light sources or reflections in the scene. Streaks are created on car headlights, flashlights, bright mirror reflections and any specular light source or reflection in the scene.

The OPTEFEX and Schneider streak filters are primarily offered as linear streaks, which vary in strength with the spacing of the cylindrical rod lenses inside the glass filter. Closely spacing the rod lenses creates a stronger effect, widely spacing the rod lenses creates a weaker effect.

Schneider also offers “confetti” streaks, which have shorter randomly oriented rod lenses giving a starburst effect.

Lindsey Optics enters the market with Brilliant2 Rota-Streak Filters

In 2018, Lindsey Optics began manufacturing streak filters with a unique process. Our first offerings are Rota-Streak Filters, that have a 138mm streak filter mounted in a 4x5.65” geared rotating tray.

The Brilliant² Rota-Streak Filter is a new twist in streak filters, giving new creative options for in-camera streak, star and swirl effects.

Lindsey Optics Brilliant Streak Filters create exciting streaks on bright lights and highlights in a scene.

Choose any streak angle for static streaks, or rotate the streak with a motor for dynamic effects.

Designed to fit in most professional 4x5.65" Matte Boxes, the Brilliant² Rota-Streak Filters are constructed by mounting our 138mm Round Brilliant Streak filters in a geared rotating frame that fits in 4x5.65 matte boxes using one stage in the matte box.

The rotating filter mount allows rotation of the streak effect to find just the right angle for the streak. Or motorize the rotation for dynamic rotating streak, star and swirl effects.

To make our streak filters, we use a unique manufacturing method to laminate very small cylindrical rod lenses inside the glass filter. By incorporating the rod lenses with different spacing, a variety of streak effects can be achieved. A closer spacing creates a stronger effect, a wider spacing creates a weaker effect.

The diamond pattern creates a star cross effect and the swirls create beautiful elliptical flares on specular light sources and highlights.

Brilliant Streak Filters are available in 7 types: 2mm, 3mm, 4mm and 6mm, Diamond Star, Confetti and Swirl.

They are available now in 6 colors: Clear, Blue, Yellow, Green, Pink and Red.

Brilliant Streak Filters will be initially available in Brilliant² 4x5.65/138 Rota Streak and 138mm Round Drop-In, followed in Q4 2018 by 4x5.65" rectangular streaks.

Other sizes can be made on request.